Category Archives: Reference

A Mom’s Reply to the State Superintendent on Why Opting Out of SAGE Tests

Whitne Strain opted her children out of SAGE tests and spoke with the press about it. Afterward, State Superintendent Menlove contacted her and asked why she opted-out. This was her reply.


Dear Dr. Menlove,
Thank you for asking why I chose to opt out my child.  I am happy to share.
First, I would like to assure you that my husband and I didn’t come to this decision lightly.  I learned about Common Core and all of its related facets a year ago.  I have read articles almost daily.  I regularly read and listen to posts by Arne Duncan and David Coleman, major players in national education.  I read your website.  I went to the CAT demonstrations by the board last year.  I actually think the testing modality is brilliant to assess the level of knowledge of participants.
My first reason for opting out is the morality of assessment use on children.  Twenty years ago, I worked for Pace Membership Warehouses in their human resources department as a behavioral interviewer before it was sold to Sam’s Club.  I was responsible for hiring Warehouse Directors, the highest paid position outside of corporate.  Assessments such as the CPI and Meyers-Briggs were the rage back then.  We collected astoundingly personal information on our candidates based on the way they answered questions.  We created profiles on them and made decisions on who to interview based on their answers.  Assessments are only appropriate in my opinion for job interviews or possible college entrance.  Even then, the potential participants can choose whether they wish to go through the process to gain an interview or search elsewhere for employment; whereas, our children can’t.
Second, I question the morality of evaluating a teacher on results they can’t see.  And I lament the loss of academic freedom to expound and create lessons.  The pressure of high stakes testing will take its toll. Teachers all have unique gifts which they bring to the table.  They come to education because they love children.  I fear that the more confined they become in their substance and approach due to the pressure to keep their job based on testing, the more we could lose the best, most creative, most loving teachers.
Lastly, it is an issue of trust.  I trust my local community with my child’s information.  While I recognize we are still being told that our information is only placed in our state SLDS system, I do not have faith that the Federal Government will not at some future time use its will to access SLDS..  Arne Duncan has made it clear that this is his goal.  He wants ALL the data.  What contributes to this lack of trust?  Daily, I read of Federal Government overreach and violation of the Constitution whether it be data collection by the NSA, a loosely created national police force by DHS, or the most horrific violation of civil rights we’ve seen in a decade, the current circumstances of Justina Pelletier of Massachusetts.  Information is power.  Information in corrupt hands leads to suffering.  I’m a student of history.   We have a plethora of examples of abuse of power using information just from the last century.  Hence, I am doing everything in my power now to reduce the amount and kind of information collected on my child for his protection in the future.  That is why I said what I did about his future in my first request.
We are a well-educated family.  My husband I and were both publicly educated and we both have bachelors degrees.  I own two businesses and he is a commercial airline pilot.
I hope you wlll find this information helpful in some way.  Thank you for helping make it possible for my child to opt-out without local repercussion and for protecting the school and teachers with SB 122.  Obviously, our collective hands are tied regarding federal money and federal regulations..  It is my hope that someday as a society, we will stop seeing education as workforce training and job placement and take it back to pure local curriculum and standard creation, pure academics and family primacy in the decision of a child’s career.
A little long winded.  Thank you, again, for asking.  It is nice to have the opportunity to be heard.

Whitne Strain

Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions

We received this excellent letter from Alma and are publishing it. I have bolded a few sentences in the letter to emphasize them.


ghana-flagMy name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.

Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.

Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.

In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.

Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.

The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.

Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.

By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.

In my case, school started at 6:00am and ended as late as 6:00pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.

You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.

Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.

Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.

Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.

In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.

I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown. When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.

In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.

I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.

America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.

America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”

–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT


State Board Audio Transcript on Adopting Common Core

From the audio from June 4, 2010 –first CC vote

Wendy Hart sent me this transcription of the first Common Core vote

State Board June 4, 2010:

5:48–”on the cutting edge of adopting the Common Core standard…the final iteration of the State Common Core standards just came out like two days ago…you have it before you….There is background on this whole initiative, and then you have two documents that make comparisons…

Laurel (Committee report) 7:15: Recommending that the board adopt the common core of states standards as a framework on first reading and we have time for the board members to go in and study this material and then we have second and third reading in August. The momentum in terms of this, although we can do it at any point in time, it is something we probably want to move ahead on more quickly rather than later. Acceptance of the Common Core standards does have some bearing in terms of the points that we receive for our second application for the funding from the federal government. So that would need to happen quite quickly. There is some angst among some people in terms of having to accept a common core standard, and so some of you may still be at that level. Many of us have already gone through that and feel ready to move ahead. We need to bear in mind that if Utah accepts the Common Core standards as iterated by that committee and it has been vetted through multiple people and agencies….if we do it, we accept the whole thing as it is. We don’t nit-pick and wordsmith this, it’s accept it. Then at that point, in terms of using it as a framework, we can plug in the details…map out the curriculum in terms of what’s actually going to happen in the classroom…. we can add to it, we just can’t take away any of that curriculum.

19:30: Brenda Hales: It’s a sea change, and what we thought when we talked about this in the committee is we know you haven’t had time to look, so if the board adopts on first reading, then it gives you time the next month and a half to review it for second and third in August.

19:47: (Debra Roberts?) Laurel, our expectation then is to have the board vote on first reading. Does everyone understand that? So, even though the committee approved it on first reading, it’s coming to you for first reading and then we’ll do second and third reading in August.

20:08: Sup. Shumway: The reason for that is various, sort of strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.

All those in favor, say “Aye”.. “Aye” Any opposed? Thank you.

How to get rich fighting Common Core

On occasion we get an accusatory question from someone asking what we’re personally gaining from our efforts in education advocacy. What a fun rumor for proponents of Common Core to spread. I’ve got charts full of circles to share with people if any of you would like to schedule a meeting in your home and invite your friends over... ;)

This morning someone emailed us through the site asking this question and at the behest of some friends I shared this with, I’m posting it here.

“Can you give me information on what you stand to gain from this movement and insight into where funding is coming from for this movement?”

Here’s my reply which you are welcome to share with people who are SURE that we’re making money off this.

“You want information on what WE stand to gain from this movement?

Financially: we spend our own money and time (which is money) doing something we don’t want to do and aren’t paid for.

Emotionally: it would be far easier to do nothing and just take care of our own families and not stick our necks out to deal with the idiocy we deal with.

Physically: wow could we all use more sleep.

Socially: we’re polarized and have made some great friends and some terrific enemies.

Spiritually: very rewarding

Hope that helps answer your question.”

2014 Caucus Flier

Attending caucus this week? Grab this pdf and make copies for your precinct. There are thousands of precincts around the state and tons of people are attending caucus meetings. This is a great opportunity to educate people about Common Core. This flier is more tuned in to a GOP message than Democrats or other parties, FYI. (Tuesday, March 18th) (Thursday, March 20th) (Thursday, March 27th)


Caucus Flier 2014 (PDF)


I received an email from someone who pointed out something inspiring which I’ll share here:

“In short, the fact that there are so many school board seats open in Utah County that are unopposed is completely sad.  For every person who thinks they can’t run, I’m here to beg you to do it anyway.  Call every, single person that you know in those areas and beg them to run.  If you don’t know anyone, then Facebook it.  The reality is the biggest, best, and most effective way for anyone to impact education, even with the centralization that we have, would be to ‘en masse’ get different school board members in, locally.  We have seen the legislature will never act without backing from the local boards.  The State Board has no motivation (and the reality is it is too far away from the people to be accountable with the amount of power it possesses) to change.  But even if no one wins.  Even if the people reject the message of local control, it does move the needle.  It shows that every person needs to be involved and responsible.  At the very least, local school board elections provide a ready-made platform for issues (debate, newspapers, direct mail pieces, websites).  It allows the rest of the people to hear a different perspective other than who loves the kids most.  It allows for an opportunity to speak truth to power, and, if successful, actually change the direction of this state, more than legislation or replacing state school board members.  The rightful power over education lies in the local school boards truly representing the parents of their communities.  Until the people actually want the power back, it will continue to be centralized, concentrated and taken away from parents and local communities.  This is the line in the sand.  This is, as Gandalf says, where “You shall not pass.”  This is the opportunity to speak the truth that PARENTS must be in charge of their kids’ education.  They we can’t abdicate this responsibility to the ‘experts’.  People don’t believe it anymore.  They think their kids must get the education the experts demand.  They may feel uncomfortable with some things and not knowing what’s going on, but we have been conditioned to believe that it isn’t our responsibility.

In my opinion, there is no single issue that is more important in the next 4 days, than finding, preferably in all 41 districts, people to run.  There should be no seat that doesn’t have opposition.  I apologize again, because when I asked and cajoled about this 6 months ago, I didn’t follow up.  I didn’t feel that it was my responsibility.  But I realize that we are all in the same boat: we don’t believe it’s our job.  We hope someone will step up to the plate.

Once upon a time, in this country, public service was seen the way our culture and our religion value religious callings.  You didn’t say no, and you felt it should be shared.  Somehow, we think that running for office is something other people should do; that it takes a particular mindset or temperament; that it shouldn’t be a sacrifice.  It is service.  It’s supposed to be a sacrifice.  To quote Thomas Paine, “it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”  We who choose to live in liberty must bear the pains of supporting it.

There are 11 school board seats up in Utah County alone.  Of those 11, 2 in Provo don’t even have a candidate yet.  All but 2, are currently unopposed.  With all due respect, I can’t believe there are only 3 people in Utah County that feel the need to stand up for something other than the status quo.  We, the people, don’t deserve local control because we don’t show by our actions that we really want it.  The mindset of who should run for office needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.

We have greater potential right now, in the next 96 hours, than we’ve had in the last 2 years, of returning control of education back to the people.

If you know anyone in one of these areas, call them and ask them to run.  Don’t take no for an answer.  Please.”


Fact-Checking Associate UT Superintendent Judy Park on Nonacademic Data Collection

Christel Swasey wrote this fact-check post on her site. I have included Judy Park’s full email below for reference, as well as comments from 2 of the 15 parent assessment review panel members which seem to contradict Judy Park’s claims.


From Christel Swasey

Once again it seems necessary, unfortunately, to provide a fact-checking rebuttal to statements made by Utah’s Associate Superintendent Judy Park about student data privacy.

In a letter given out to parents of children attending a St. George charter school recently, Judy Park was quoted at length.  Park, the Associate Superintendent of Utah, made the following statements that will be scrutinized here with links to opposing evidence.

In that letter, Ms. Park  wrote:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”.  They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim.  The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

Here’s evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.

1.  First, there is a Utah law about Common Core standardized tests.  This law, HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators.  It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing.   This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.

2. There is a company that Utah has paid at least $39 million to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research.  Its mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah law says that the test must test behavioral indicators, the test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park herself is a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

Lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”  This is a big problem since the state and the federal requirements do not match anymore.  The state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant application to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it.

Unless bills like Jake Anderegg’s current HB169 student data privacy bill  and others like it will pass, we have very few protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscuous data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.


Another article on this site which is related to this topic contains this information:

The Utah State Office of Education has an official document actively endorsing the collection of behavioral and non-academic data, “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance

“Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play, data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59″)

This list of CCGP Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a Personal Commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society


Judy Park’s Original Email

The advocates of “anti-common core” are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”.  They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim.  The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.  The url below, is a document that provides specific information about data collection and use in Utah.  This document also provides links to other documents that lists each data field that is collected.  It is unfortunate that due to the misinformation that is being freely shared through emails, etc., parents who choose to not have their students participate in the academic testing this year, will not receive the assessment results that can provide good information for students and parents and be used to inform instruction for their classroom next fall.

There are also claims that the company, AIR that will be scoring the assessment, will use student data in an inappropriate way.  The original contract with AIR as well as federal law prohibits AIR or any other assessment company from using data for purposes not approved by the entity (state) that holds the contract.  Due to the many concerns, an amendment was made to the contract to strengthen the language.  The url for this amendment is below.

There are also concerns that the test questions contain inappropriate content of a social or political nature.  Every question on the SAGE assessment has been reviewed by the 15 member parent committee last fall.  Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.  The media did some stories as a follow up to the parent panel.  This information can be found at the url below.

As an additional support to parents, USOE/AIR has produced a SAGE brochure for families.  There are three brochures; Policy makers, Educators, Families.  These are brand new and will be placed on the website today.  I have attached them for your use.

I hope these documents and information is helpful to you.  Please let me know if there are other questions, or if I can provide additional information.


Judy W. Park, Ed.D.
Utah State Office of Education
Associate Superintendent
Student Services and Federal Programs


Comments from 2 members of the 15 parent panel

Quoted from Judy Park: “Every question on the SAGE assessment has been reviewed by the 15 member parent committee last fall. Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.”

I served on that 15 parent committee, and I will tell you that is not true. And if Dr. Park says that, she must have been sleeping during the meeting we had altogether at the end of our week at the USOE office last November (a private meeting, without the media, where everyone there had to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, which is why I can’t give specific examples). Yes, there were questions flagged for ridiculous reasons like grammatical errors, incorrect answers (seriously? I didn’t realize it was our job to check if the answers were correct!), or malfunctioning technology. But I know I wasn’t the only one to flag items because of subjective, inappropriate, or misleading content. Sometimes it was for individual questions, sometimes it was every question related to a certain passage, because the passage was inappropriate/biased. We were told that everything flagged would be reviewed again, and a decision regarding revision/complete removal/no change would be made between USOE and AIR. As part of the committee, we will not see the end result of those until we reconvene this fall. Everyone in the committee agreed that the majority of the questions seemed fine, however I don’t like it repeated that this equates to approval of the entire test.

Louisa Walker


“Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.” –Judy Park (above)

I am a parent on the SAGE assessment review panel and this statement is not accurate. There were questions that parents flagged as inappropriate, subjective or biased. We were promised that these test items would be reviewed and addressed and that we would get to see how they were addressed when we convene again this fall. (Which is long after this Spring’s pilot unfortunately, so I can give you no assurance whether those items have been satisfactorily addressed or not.) I participated in this panel in good faith, wanting to be a contributor to making improvements and not just a critic and I feel it is a manipulation of my cooperation to characterize it as unreserved approval of these assessments.

Alyson Williams

Where is Utah Bound to Common Core’s Federal Reforms?

1)  The Four Assurances (or federal reforms) in the 2009 Stimulus Package’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund—which included common standards, new assessments, teacher evaluations, school grading and data collection systems—signed by Governor Huntsman. The “assurances” were promises that Governors made to the Obama administration when they accepted Stimulus money. The Stimulus money helped President Obama build a new federal framework at the state level to, as US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “fundamentally shift the federal role” over education.

See also: The federal grant from the 2009 Stimulus Package for the creation of Utah’s State Longitudinal Data System (This was a $9.6 million dollar grant to Utah to create a data system which would provide a framework for the Obama administration’s National Education Data Model. In order to start collecting individual student and family data without parental consent—including things like bus stop times, health conditions and religious affiliation—the Obama administration bypassed Congress and rewrote federal FERPA privacy regulations).

2) The 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by Governor Huntsman and State Superintendent Patti Harrington, where they committed Utah to Common Core national standards.

3) The No Child Left Behind Flexibility Request (Waiver) in which the MOU was used as “evidence” that Utah, in exchange for flexibility from the stipulations in No Child Left Behind, would adopt Common Core.

4) The Common Core standards copyright binds states to precisely what is written in the standards. States can add 15% more to the standards, but cannot take anything away from them. They are adopted “in whole.”

5) The fact that the K-12 assessments aligned to Common Core will be used by 90% of the states will preclude states deviating from the standards. We are bound by the sheer nature of national standards themselves–and this was by design. To deviate from the standards by even 5% would put states at a comparative disadvantage.